Category Archives: Menu plans

Picnic Packs

We have a lot of picnics planned in the near future. The weather has been getting nicer and nicer and there are a lot of fun activities planned.

I decided to make my life easier by planning ahead for these picnics.

First, I went to Winco and purchased a bag full of munchy, yummy and non-perishable snacks. My criteria was simple: They had to be inexpensive or on a good sale, and be something I thought some of the kids would eat. I got little boxes of raisins using Ibotta rebates to bring the cost down. I got Lay’s chips in a tube so they wouldn’t crush and Winco chips for another time, since they were only around $1.50/bag. I put this bag in a safe place so the goodies would be there for the picnics.

Then, I had a baking day. I made many containers of cookies and several loaves of zucchini bread from frozen zucchini from the garden. I froze these items in containers that would be easy to grab when packing the picnic. I actually have a couple other items that I want to make and freeze when I get the time.

Finally, I went to Fred Meyers and got 4 boxes of soda on the 4/$10 sale.

I will make sandwiches, pack baby carrots, and whatever else I feel like on the day of the picnic and then grab items from these stashed items to make up the rest. Since these picnics are with various kids, they each like what they like, so I’ll pack accordingly.

We have a picnic tomorrow–we are taking Patsy, our adult son, Anthony, Allison (the love of his life), and our niece, Michaela, bowling. Then, we will go to a park and eat. It should be a lot of fun as long as I remember lots of peanut butter sandwiches:)

What Did We Eat? And, Feeding a Crowd From the Pantry And Sales–April 4, 2019

When I returned from camping last Friday, I hit the ground running. With my daughter home from Hawaii for a few days and a big birthday party to plan for her, the camping things to put away and the house to clean and lots of cooking to do for the large amount of people who were coming, I decided not to use any of the precious time to go to the store. Instead, I tried to figure out what I could make from my freezers and pantry.

I was delighted to find a few volunteer green onions and some cilantro growing in the garden.

I made cake and mixed fruit crisp. There were blackberries, rhubarb and peaches in it, topped with an oatmeal crisp. The birthday cake was a tried and true gluten-free recipe, and I used up the last scraps of sour cream from camping in it.

Rob BBQ’d chicken with some of the bargain chicken he got a couple of weeks ago and he did salmon. One large piece was a gift a friend gave us a while back and the other smaller package was from Safeway, purchased on one of their Friday specials. I used the green onions in twice-baked potato casserole, so I could make it the day before and warm it on Sunday. In there, I used sour cream, cream cheese and cheddar, in small quantities because that’s what was in the fridge. I served home-canned green beans and home-frozen corn as well, and one of my sisters brought a large broccoli salad. It was delicious. There were hardly any leftovers at all.

To fill in, we had things that were left from camping such as lunchmeat, cheese, extra salad ingredients, etc. Rob used the cilantro in some turkey burger, which he fried as taco meat and topped salad with.

On Tuesday, it was our turn to feed the college group. Alissa, our niece, helped us. They got bargain chicken, which Rob applied a rub to and cooked on the BBQ. He then transported it in 2 crock pots, with a little water in them to keep it moist. It worked well.

We baked potatoes and kept them warm in the roaster. We bought rolls at the bread outlet. We made green salad, rice salad and put out toppings for the potatoes.

Alissa decorated some box-cake mixes I baked up.

They looked very springy and festive. We were able to stay way under their budget for that project, mostly due to the bargain price we got on chicken a couple of weeks ago. As usual, the group was very hungry and very appreciative. There were about 35 people there, but there was plenty of food and even some leftovers. For that group, when you are cleaning up, you package the leftovers in baggies, take-home containers, little cups….whatever works, and the kids take it home for their lunches the next day. It’s a good system for everyone.

The only shopping for myself this week was a gallon of milk, which I grabbed when I was shopping for the church group. I’ve been making things like muffins and vegetable soup, and odds and ends. Of course, we ate at church Tuesday night, with the college kids.

My grocery plans for April are pretty simple. I want to have a lower-shopping month again, as far as it is possible. January was very low-spend, low-shop. February and March were big shopping months, as I had run out of quite a few things and found some great sales, so I stocked up. I was also given a lot of food in March, including 1/2 pork (we paid cut and wrap, but our friend gifted us 1/2 a pig he raised), a 25-lb bag of gluten-free flour, and more. There are a few more volunteer items in the garden. Now, it’s ridiculous in the garage! The shelves are full. There is extra food on the table that won’t fit on the shelves. The freezers are absolutely crammed! What a delightful “problem” to have! It’s time to use up things again. This keeps my stock rotated, my grocery bill averaged out for other “high-need” months, and I can put any extra into the envelope to put towards the beef we buy each fall. Of course, I will continue to buy produce and dairy products, along with Jake and Michaela specific foods for when they are here and grab any super bargains I find.


What Did We Eat? March 30, 2019

This week, we ate quite simply, but it was delicious! We were camping at the beach all week, but we came back and forth several times, using home as our landing spot, so to speak. We did this because Patsy had an event she wanted to attend with the church youth group that lasted 2 nights, and Lovana was flying in from Hawaii. It was up to us to ferry everyone back and forth. So, several meals were eaten in the car, from items packed in a small cooler. Others were eaten at home from odds and ends we dug up, and the rest were eaten in the camper at the beach.

All except one. Rob and I took the occasion to go out to dinner on Sunday night last week. It is so rare for us to have an evening of our own that we wanted to do something special, so we went to a restaurant at the beach and had seafood dinners! Yum:)

Rob cooked on his little camping barbecue several times. He made chicken, steak and mini pizzas. We started with pre-made gluten-free crusts, decorated them, and he cooked them. If you try it, use plenty of foil and don’t turn the BBQ up too high or they burn. After a little practice, they turned out amazing:)

I had made and frozen split pea soup, packed potato salad and chicken for the first day, and had plenty of veggies and salad fixings. We bought salad shrimp twice and I had hard boiled eggs as well. We used home-canned soup and beans and made a lot of eggs and pancakes. We like it simple when we are camping.

I took the opportunity to sort through the camper cupboards and pulled out mixes, rice, and other items that had been there longer than I like. I brought in the things I didn’t use on the trip, and I’m systematically sorting them–they are getting used very soon, or discarded if they are no good. I’m going to replace several items before we go camping again, either from the store, or from my cupboards at home.

We had a good time, rested a lot, visited with Lovana, and took a lot of naps. I was able to get down and walk on the beach several times. Although the weather was not sunny all the time and we had a few super rainy days, there were plenty of good-weather days, as well. We got home yesterday, and hit the ground running. Lovana is off visiting some of her many friends, and I’m cooking up a storm so we can have a big birthday party after church tomorrow for her. It should be fun!

What Did We Eat? March 23, 2019

The main, stand-out new recipe I made this week was lentil tacos. I made them in the Instant Pot, using a recipe from the internet. (There are several recipes, which are all about the same on there). It’s just lentils, salsa, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper, and water. Rob really liked them, also.

I made potato salad, Rob grilled chicken a couple of times, and we had as many leftovers as we could eat to clean the fridge. Of course salads were frequent, as always.

We’ve been eating a lot of soup, and had turkey-vegetable and chicken-rice several times.

It wasn’t a super exciting food week, but there was plenty to eat! Some weeks are just ordinary and this was one of them.

What Did We Eat? March 16, 2019

This was a very busy work week. On several occasions, we just ate over at my sister’s house, since we were all there so much. 2 of those nights, we ate leftovers from a meeting they attended Sunday, so that was easy! My aunt dropped in to check on Jake one night and stayed and ate with us, so that was a nice addition:). She brought him some of his favorite cookies and he ate exactly 1 before falling asleep…

On Wednesday morning, I had a few hours. I made 3 kinds of soup–split pea, chicken-rice, and vegetable-chicken. I used the broth and bits from the Costco chicken to make the 2 chicken kinds, so they have very little meat in them, but still taste really good. The split pea is vegetarian. I hauled some of the chicken-rice soup over to Jake, who ate it for dinner the next 2 nights. His mouth is healing, but slowly. The second set of antibiotics helped him heal more, but he had a very rough time of it for a few days.

On Wednesday morning, I cooked up an Instant Pot of brown rice. Part of it was combined with frozen turkey bits, broccoli from last year’s garden, cheese, and a sauce made from milk, sweet rice flour to slightly thicken it, dried onion, a can of mushrooms, salt and pepper. It was really, really good. I took some of it over to my sister’s for Thursday night’s dinner. My aunt brought over some salad fixings she wasn’t going to be able to use up before they went bad, and we made salad to go with the casserole.

The rest of the brown rice was combined with previously cooked and frozen pinto beans (thawed out of course), cheese (including some Cojita cheese I got for my Friday Freebie a couple of weeks ago), salsa and a little enchilada sauce, both home-canned last summer. I wrapped this filling in tortillas, then foil, then labeled and froze for quick dinners for Patsy when Rob is home with her and I’m at work. She loves them and ate most of the ones I made a few weeks ago.

Our daughter, Lovana, plans to come visit later in the month, and she is a vegetarian. I froze some of the burritos and some of the split pea soup to have on hand while she’s here. Since she lives in Hawaii now, she’s sure she going to freeze to death here, but I assured her she can wrap up in how ever many of her Dad’s old coats she wants to:)

I made a turkey enchilada from the turkey bits in the freezer. With the 2 casseroles I made this week, I was able to finish that fairly large bag of turkey bits up before they lingered too long in the freezer.

The past 2 weeks haven’t been the easiest, but with everyone pulling together, we’ve all been able to eat tasty, healthy, economical meals. This week will have a much lighter schedule. Whew!!!

What Did We Eat? March 1, 2019

This week, I made gluten-free pizza twice. The first time, it was deep dish combination pizza. I killed part of the yeast by using too hot of water, so it did not rise well. Still, it rose enough that we could eat it, and so we did!

I checked the yeast, determined I was the problem and not the yeast, and made another batch, but this time, I made 2 flat crusts. I par-baked them for 5 minutes at 500 degrees F. and froze them. Tonight, I pulled one of them out of the freezer, topped it, and baked for 15 minutes at 500 degrees F.

I also made up a few baggies of the dry ingredients for the pizza and put them on the shelf for another time when I want to make it quickly. Now that I have the recipe working properly, I will post it soon.

Rob barbecued some steak. I sautéed some frozen shrimp. I also made turkey-burger meatloaf, which we ate a few times until it was gone. We ate the chicken we got last Friday at Costco, boiled the carcass and made broth, which turned into chicken and dumplings.

We ate several kinds of canned and frozen fruit, including frozen blueberries, which Patsy ate straight from a bowl while they were still frozen. She also had smoothies a couple of times and used more frozen fruit in those. I’m not exactly sure what else came out of all those empty jars that are waiting to be put away in the shop, but I know we enjoyed eating whatever was in them!

We had home-canned green beans, lots of carrots, and quite a few salads. We had baked potatoes a couple of times and Rob made home-shredded hash browns, too.

It was a very busy week, full of medical appointments, working extra time with the kids, and other things we did. I feel happy that I got as much cooking done as I did and that all of the dishes got done, too! (Rob can’t wash his fair share until after he recovers from one of his medical tests, so I’m merrily washing away. Every day. Every dish. Patsy dries and puts away. By the way, Rob is very, very fine–it was a great result, praise the Lord–and he’s trying not to laugh too loud about having to take a break from dishes and hauling firewood!).

Jake and Michaela ate dinner here tonight, and they had cinnamon sugar toast on whole wheat bread. (Under duress, she ate 1 baby carrot and Jake ate 2 cucumber slices) Jake wants to spend the night, but I took Michaela home because she wants to be there. While I was gone, Rob cooked eggs and eggs for Jake, and he topped off his evening with mini-marshmallows, washed down with grape juice. How’s that for a before-bed snack? Hmmm. I hope your meals were less eclectic!

What Did We Eat? February 23, 2019

At the beginning of the week, we ate leftovers from things we had cooked last weekend. The fridge was starting to look pretty bare of anything that could be grabbed in a hurry, so I cooked a big roast with carrots and potatoes. I put the last of a jar of horseradish sauce, mixed with some powdered onion soup mix on top. It came out wonderful. I went ahead and froze one small container of sliced beef for later, since it was a large roast.

I made some chili-mac with beans I had cooked last weekend, and froze the rest.

We made taco bar for the college age kids at church. I made a big crock pot of refried beans, and some really, really good Pumpkin Spice Bars.

I still have several cans of that pumpkin Rob got for 10c/can over a year ago. I wanted to find a use for one of them, and I know I’ll make the recipe again.

We had lots of salads, a sandwich or two, bagels and cinnamon sugar toast for the kids.

I made soup on the day my mom came over with a jar of the beef stew mixture we canned last fall, a pint of green beans and a pint of tomato juice. I added some water and spiced and it turned out great. She brought some muffins.

I made lemon-poppyseed muffins to put in the freezer for people to pop out for quick breakfasts.

What did we eat? february 14, 2019

I served lots of salads and veggies this past week. One time, I put it out on a platter and added lots of goodies to make it look different. Somehow, it worked. We felt like we had a whole new kind of salad!

I made carrots sautéed in apple juice. Carrots are one of the most reasonable fresh veggies at this time of year, so we’ve been having them more often.

Rob made himself some cooked cabbage and chicken sausage with a side of sautéed mushrooms. The cabbage is also a good price, as it is in season at this time of year and he found 2 large packages of mushrooms on the mark-down rack, so he got to enjoy a bunch of those. We’ve had omelets from the mushrooms, as well. Another day, I made coleslaw from more cabbage.

I found a bag of frozen pesto cubes in the freezer. During the summer, I make it and freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop the cubes out and freeze in a bag. My recipe is very simple–it includes basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. There are no pine nuts in it. I made brown rice pasta with the pesto last night. It was really good. I ate way too much.

I crumb-coated some rockfish that was in the freezer and served it with the pasta, and home-canned green beans. We ate several jars of green beans this week, several jars of fruit, and quite a few odds and ends from the freezers. I’m noticing that the chest freezer is starting to feel less tightly packed, which is good news since it’s hard to see what’s in there other than the top layer. It’s easier to dig around if it’s not too crammed. The 2 uprights are showing some spaces as well. The little freezer on top of the fridge in the kitchen is still crammed because I keep bringing veggies and things in from the shop for immediate use. Now that I’m getting more space, I plan to make up a few more things like muffins to have on hand for quick meals.

One night, Rob made hamburger patties, baked “French fries” and carrots with a little honey on them. Then, he took a picture of it (that’s his foot and knee there) and sent me a picture with the caption “I’ve got dinner for you.” I was super happy he did that, as I was heading home and was starving:).

Patsy made gluten-free crepes. They were really good. Way too good. We’d better not make those too often:).

We ate leftovers quite a few times as well.

I am happy to report that I have finally (hopefully) got things organized again so that I can stop going to the store every few days. I will do another produce run in a few days, and I’ll grab eggs if I see them on sale, but the staples are back in the pantry, at least for now. We are ready for a weekend with Jake and Michaela, and have the foods they will eat all stocked up. I have other things I’d rather do than go to the store, so I’m excited about that. Still, the reality is that if we cook from scratch a great deal, which we do, I am going to run out of foods we use, and it’s worth the time to me to go from store to store and get the best possible prices to stock back up, so I will always make time for that. I haven’t checked the ads yet this week, but last week I got butter for $1.99/box…..it’s aways worth looking:)

What did we eat? February 9, 2019

I decided to attack the winter squash that was left from last year’s garden. I got such a good crop of my acorn squash, was given 4 Butternuts, and my compost pile grew a couple more all by itself! We’ve been eating it all along, but when I went and looked at my still-large bucket full, some of them were starting to get bad spots on them. I cut each and every one of them open, threw away anything that was bad, and cut the rest into chunks, which I roasted in a 425 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. I got 2 pans.

We ate a bunch.

I made ginger apple-butternut squash soup. I found a few apples in a box on the covered porch from last fall. They were a little wrinkly, but still good, so I wanted to target them as well. The soup was very different than what we usually make, but Rob and I both liked it.

I made quinoa bowls with quinoa, carrots and spinach on the bottom. Pieces of Rob’s BBQ’d chicken thigh meat with a chipotle-lime sauce and roasted squash came next and it was topped with a apple dressing. I started with a recipe from Gluten-Free and More Magazine, and changed it up quite a bit. We liked it!

We got 10 lbs of frozen chicken hindquarters for $5 last Friday. Rob barbecued the whole bag and we’ve been eating it all week. We’ve been pulling things from the freezers and eating them–lots of veggies, odds and end of things, etc. Patsy ate some frozen burritos one night from the ones I made and froze a few weeks ago. I’m going to have to make some more before long.

I made a mixture of hamburger and black beans with Mexican seasoning and we had tacos/taco salads one night. One night I sautéed some frozen shrimp that was in the freezer for myself after work.

We’ve also had some leftover pork chops from the ones my sister made last Sunday for Family Sunday Dinner at her house. I took leftover salad bar items from what was left when we had our friends over last Saturday.

I’ve had to adjust my February plans for food a bit from what I thought it was going to look like last week. I was out of a lot more things than I thought I was. So, I will not be saving grocery money this month. I will be spending every cent of my grocery budget, and perhaps a bit more. I’ve already gathered several kinds of gluten-free flour from the store, and my mom gave me some almond flour she was not using. (Thanks, again, Mom!). We’ve used a LOT of produce and I will be getting more weekly. I already got baking powder, baking soda, and 5 pounds of butter. I still need to get bulk spices, salt and pepper–you see how it is:). I went ahead and grabbed “Michaela and Jake” foods as the kids are spending next weekend with us and froze the things like bagels and ww bread.

I feel like my January use-it-up project was very successful and the goal of rotating my stocked food was met. I don’t mind buying more to keep the pantry full, and it’s nice to know that things are staying fresh out there. I plan to keep digging into the cupboards, freezers, and pantry and will continue to use up older things that are there. I will still attempt to do the weekly post about our menus and showcase the items I am using up.

Best of all, Rob continued to lose weight over the month and my blood sugars are a bit better than they were 3 months ago, even with the challenge and the holidays.

What Did We Eat? October 26, 2018

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I tried a recipe for French Onion Chicken.  It was from Cooking Light magazine, but I did tweak it a bit.  First, you cooked a lot of onions.  I used a little bit of butter, a small amount of beef broth, and about 4 huge onions and used a non-stick pan.  I used even less butter than the magazine called for and no cooking wine.  They got nice and cooked in about 15 minutes.  I put 1/2 of them on a baking tray, and the other 1/2 I used to make some French Onion Soup. I used chicken thighs I got on 30% off instead of the whole chickens that were called for.  I put down a layer of cooked onions and some carrot sticks (my addition) and laid the thighs on top and sprinkled them with fresh thyme.  I did not make herb butter and put under the skin, although I’m sure it would be delicious.  We don’t need those extra calories around here right now.  I decided to set my oven at 425 degrees.  That was hot enough for me, even though the recipe called for 450.  Then I baked them until they were done, about 40 minutes.  (They were not super cold as I had returned from the store and made them a little while after that without putting them in the fridge for hours as would normally happen.).  They were really, really good.

I made French Onion Soup with the other 1/2 of the onions.  It was good with little pieces of bread (some regular and some gf) with cheese slices melted on top.

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I made another batch of zucchini muffins, with a cinnamon-sugar topping. Everyone liked those!

We have had lots of vegetables–tons of salads, canned green beans, carrots, cherry tomatoes, etc.  My aunt gave us some low-calorie salad dressing that Rob has been loving.

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I used some of the last zucchini I will be getting.  There is a tiny bit left, but the bushes look like they are dead or dying, and the fall rains have finally started, so they won’t get better:). I’m trying to use up the garden odds and ends while I still have them.  There are still cherry tomatoes and a couple of cucumbers out there, at least there were a couple of days ago.  I’ll bet they are cracked after all this rain we’ve had yesterday and today.  Their days are numbered, too:)

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I made baked pear slices with cinnamon sugar and raisins.  They were great!

I went out to breakfast with a couple of friends, and had an omelet.  It was good.  I ate half for breakfast, and the other half several hours later for a late lunch.

We ate many other things, of course, but those were the most exciting ones!